Conference speakers

Check out a preview of our 2012 speaker lineup for The Feast Conference. You can see some of the past Feast Conference speakers here.

Ai-jen Poo
Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance

Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), has been organizing immigrant women workers since 1996. In 2000 she co-founded Domestic Workers United, the New York based organization that spearheaded the successful passage of the state’s historic Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010. In 2007, DWU helped organize the first national domestic workers convening, out of which the NDWA was formed. Ai-jen serves on the Board of Directors of Momsrising, National Jobs with Justice, Working America, and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Among Ai-jen’s numerous accolades are the Ms. Foundation Woman of Vision Award, the Independent Sector American Express NGen Leadership Award, Newsweek’s 150 Fearless Women list, and the Time 100 list.

Arcade Fire
Grammy Award-Winning Band

Hailing from Montreal, Canada, Arcade Fire is a band that has won two Grammys, two BRITs, and has released three records in six years- Funeral, Neon Bible, The Suburbs.

2010’s The Suburbs, debuted at #1 in seven countries including the United States, UK and Canada. Following the album release, the band performed two sold out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden, producing a live stream on You Tube directed by Terry Gilliam, which received over 1.8 million views worldwide. In February 2011, Arcade Fire won Album of The Year at the Grammy Awards for The Suburbs, before going on to win Best International Group and Best International Album at the 2011 BRIT Awards. A short film, Scenes from the Suburbs, directed by Spike Jonze and co-written by Jonze, Will Butler and Win Butler, accompanied a deluxe edition of The Suburbs released in June 2011.

Arcade Fire has toured extensively worldwide. As their success grew, they saw an opportunity to shine a light on a cause that is very close to their hearts – the people of Haiti. Over seven years ago, they started donating $1 per concert ticket sold to Partners In Health, a global healthcare organization founded in Haiti 25 years ago. They also developed the Arcade Fire Outreach Program which – in association with Partners In Health – encourages fans to become active through the “I STAND WITH HAITI” campaign and through fundraising efforts. To date, Arcade Fire has trained nearly 1000 volunteers, engaged over 50,000 fans in the campaign, and has raised over $2 million for PIH.

Since 2008, the band has travelled several times to Haiti – bearing witness to the work of PIH including the construction of the new Mirebalais National Teaching Hospital-a key piece of infrastructure development in Haiti post 2010's devastating earthquake. But they also share their passion for music. Arcade Fire played a series of concerts in Haiti in 2011, and continue to donate instruments and support music education in the Central Plateau.

Benjamin Salka
Co-Founder and CEO, Story Pirates

Benjamin Salka is the co-founder and CEO of Story Pirates, a media and education company that celebrates the words, ideas, and stories of children, encouraging and empowering young people to invent big ideas for a new generation. Under Mr. Salka's leadership, Story Pirates has grown from a pilot program in 2004 to a nationally respected organization with branches New York and Los Angeles. Story Pirates annually serve hundreds of thousands of students in over 250 schools from coast to coast.

Brian David Johnson
Futurist, Director - Future Casting, Principal Engineer at Intel Corporation

The future is Brian David Johnson's business. As a futurist at Intel Corporation, his charter is to develop an actionable vision for computing in 2020. His work is called "future casting"—using ethnographic field studies, technology research, trend data, and even science fiction to provide Intel with a pragmatic vision of consumers and computing. Along with reinventing TV, Johnson has been pioneering development in artificial intelligence, robotics, and using science fiction as a design tool. He speaks and writes extensively about future technologies in articles and scientific papers as well as science fiction short stories and novels (Science Fiction Prototyping: Designing the Future with Science Fiction, Screen Future: The Future of Entertainment Computing and the Devices we Love, Fake Plastic Love, and Nebulous Mechanisms: The Dr. Simon Egerton Stories). He has directed two feature films and is an illustrator and commissioned painter.

Bridging Education & Art Together

B.E.A.T.’s mission is to transform the lives of youth in under-served areas through engaging, exciting and culturally relevant music, dance and writing programs which include beatboxing, B-boying/B-girling (breakdance), music production/composition, and creative writing.

Our roster of instructors serve as inspiration to the students as the strength of our programs lie in our teaching artists who include some of the most notable cultural icons, visionary pioneers and experts in their respective fields.

By engaging, retaining, challenging and teaching life-skills to the students in our programs through music, writing and dance, B.E.A.T. aims to help mold a new generation of leaders and creative thinkers who themselves will inspire and impact the generations to follow.

Beth Comstock
Chief Marketing Officer Senior Vice President, GE

Beth Comstock leads GE’s growth and market-innovation initiatives, as well as the sales, marketing and communications functions. She is responsible for GE-wide business platforms ecomagination, dedicated to environmental innovation and healthymagination, focused on developing better health outcomes.

Previously she served as President of Integrated Media at NBC Universal where she oversaw ad sales, marketing and research, and led the company’s digital media development and distribution, including the formation of, Peacock Equity and the acquisition of

In 2003, she was named GE’s first Chief Marketing officer in more than 20 years introducing the ecomagination platform, as well as a new innovation pipeline and the “imagination at work” brand campaign.

Beth held a succession of roles at GE, NBC, CBS and Turner Broadcasting. She is a member of Nike’s Board of Directors and Trustee president of the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Beth is a graduate of the College of William and Mary.

Bre Pettis
CEO, Makerbot

Passionate about invention, innovation, and all things DIY, Bre Pettis builds infrastructure for creativity. He is a founder of NYC Resistor, a hacker collective in Brooklyn, which incubated MakerBot Industries, where he is CEO. MakerBot Industries brings the future to your desktop with affordable, open source 3D printers. MakerBot users print their creations and share their designs on, a community hub with over 20,000 downloadable designs. Before co-founding MakerBot, Bre was a TV host/producer for Make Magazine, a new media creator for, a schoolteacher, artist, and puppeteer.

Catherine Rohr
Founder and CEO, Defy Ventures

Catherine Rohr is the founder and CEO of Defy Ventures, a New York City-based nonprofit that provides carefully selected, ambitious men who have criminal histories with transformational entrepreneurship, leadership, and career opportunities. Defy hosts high-stakes business plan competitions and recruits business executives to serve as judges, mentors, and faculty, who in turn provide clients with legitimate pathways to succeed as business owners, income earners, fathers, and community leaders.

Catherine brings to Defy Ventures her five years of experience as the founder and CEO of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a nonprofit organization that serves men throughout the Texas prison system. Under Catherine’s leadership, PEP was recognized for its innovation and results by NBC Nightly News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist, and Entrepreneur Magazine. These results include:

- Graduating 600 men, 80% of whom committed violent crimes
- A return-to-prison rate of less than 10%
- An employment rate of 98% (with eight graduates making more than $100,000 in their first year out of prison), and
- The inception of more than 60 businesses by its graduates.

But for Catherine, it’s not about stellar numbers and media accolades. It’s about life change. It took a life transformation for Catherine to follow her calling, and she’s proud that her aspiring entrepreneurs also embrace a changed lifestyle to show the world that we can collectively “defy the odds.”

Prior to PEP, Catherine scoured the world of entrepreneurs, speaking with thousands of them to source $32 million in venture capital and private equity investments on behalf of two firms.

Catherine graduated with a degree in Business Administration from University of California, Berkeley.

A three-time marathon runner, former rugby player, and California State Wrestling Champion, Catherine resides in New York City and still enjoys training and competing in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and submission grappling in her spare time.

Christina Xu
Founding Director, Institute of Higher Awesome Studies

Christina Xu is the founding director of the Institute on Higher Awesome Studies, an organization dedicated to nurturing small awesome ideas around the world. She also serves as a trustee of the Boston chapter of the Awesome Foundation, an ever-growing, worldwide network of people devoted to forwarding the interest of awesomeness in the universe. By day, Christina works at Breadpig, a publisher of comics and other internet-related books. She is one of the co-founders of ROFLCon, the world’s first conference/convention about internet culture.

Dan Barasch
Co-Founder, The Lowline

Dan Barasch is Co-Founder of the Lowline, an effort to build the world's first underground park in New York City. He formerly led partnerships at PopTech, an NGO focused on promoting socially innovative applications of technology. Dan previously worked within New York City government, as well as at Google, UNICEF, the 9/11 Survivors' Fund, and the World Affairs Council.


frog works with the world’s leading companies, helping them to design, engineer, and bring to market meaningful products and services. With an interdisciplinary team of more than 1,000 designers, strategists, and software engineers, frog delivers connected experiences that span multiple technologies, platforms, and media.

Emily Jacobi
Co-Founder and Executive Director of Digital Democracy

Called “the epitome of a western leader who genuinely understands the wisdom of the global south,” Emily Jacobi has been forging relationships across boundaries for more than 15 years, when she began her career as a youth journalist. In her current capacity as Co-Founder and Executive Director of Digital Democracy, Emily works to transform people’s conceptions of what is possible by empowering marginalized communities to leverage technology to address pressing human rights challenges. From her first reporting trip to Cuba at the age of 13 to groundbreaking research on indigenous conceptions of poverty in Mali, Emily’s work has encompassed media & technology projects with remote & vulnerable populations across the world. Featured in Fast Company’s “50 Most Innovative Companies” 2012, Emily has presented & published on the intersection of technology, civic engagement and human rights to US Congress, the State Department, the United Nations, Aspen Ideas Festival, and numerous universities and technology conferences.

Geoffrey West
Distinguished Professor and Former President, Santa Fe Institute

Geoffrey West is Distinguished Professor and former President of the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) and an Associate Fellow of the Said Business School, Oxford University. Prior to joining SFI in 2003, he was leader of high energy physics at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he remains a Senior Fellow. He received his BA from Cambridge University in 1961 and his PhD in physics from Stanford University in 1966. After spells at Cornell and Harvard Universities, he returned to Stanford in 1970 to join the faculty. He was President of SFI from 2005 – 2009.

West is a theoretical physicist whose primary interests have been in fundamental questions in physics and biology, ranging from the elementary particles, their interactions and cosmological implications to the origins of universal scaling laws and a unifying quantitative framework of biology. His research in biology has included metabolic rate, growth, aging & mortality, sleep, cancer, and ecosystem dynamics.

His recent work has focused on developing an underlying quantitative theory for the structure and dynamics of cities, companies and long-term sustainability, including rates of growth and innovation, the accelerating pace of life, and why companies die, yet cities survive.

He has given many colloquia, keynote addresses and public lectures world-wide. Awards include the Mercer Prize from the Ecological Society of America, the Weldon Prize for Mathematical Biology, and the Glenn Award for Aging research. He has been featured in many publications world-wide including The New York Times, Nature, Science, The Financial Times, Time, Newsweek and Scientific American and has participated in television productions including Nova, National Geographic and the BBC. His work was selected as a breakthrough idea of 2007 by Harvard Business Review and, in 2006, he was named to Time magazine's list of "100 Most Influential People in the World".

Gillian Ferrabee
Creative Director, Cirque du Soleil

Gillian Ferrabee wrote, directed and produced her first long-format play at the age of 10. She has been telling stories in one way or another ever since. She started out as a modern dancer, touring North America and Europe for over ten years with various contemporary dance and physical theatre companies (O Vertigo; Carbone 14). She transitioned into a career acting in film and TV in, as well as writing and translating screenplays. She joined Cirque du Soleil as a talent scout in 2004, and for five years she travelled the world meeting artists and discovering new trends in performance. In 2009 she became a casting advisor for the company’s touring shows. And in 2012 she became creative director for Images and Special Projects. She now heads a team of in-house creatives in developing projects for film, TV and new media in collaboration with various outside partners.

Graham Hill
CEO, LifeEdited

Graham Hill is founder, CEO and all-around mastermind at LifeEdited. He has a B. Architecture and studied product design. In 95′, he founded early Internet consultancy SiteWerks with his cousin, built it to 60 people landing clients such as Microsoft and sold it in 98’. In 03′ he founded and, makers of ceramic cups that resemble NYC’s iconic paper coffee cups. TreeHugger was sold to Discovery in 07’ and remains one of the most trafficked green sites reaching more than 5M unique visitors per month. Other past venture areas include fashion, viral email and plant-based air filters. Graham speaks English, French, German and Spanish and loves kitesurfing, surfing, climbing, squash and snowboarding. From New York and Maui, he schemes daily about how he can help humanity avoid rapid extinction.

James Adams
Deputy Chief Technologist, NASA

W. James (Jim) Adams is the Deputy Chief Technologist at NASA in the Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT). NASA’s OCT is responsible for direct management of NASA’s space technology programs and for coordination and tracking of all technology investments across the agency.

Adams earned his B.S. degree in Physics from Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania in 1979. He completed the General ElectricSystems Engineering Development Program in 1987 and earned his M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania in 1989. In addition to his academic achievements, Adams holds a private pilot’s license.

Adams currently serves as NASA’s Deputy Chief Technologist. Previously, as the Deputy Director of the Planetary Science Division in NASA’sScience Mission Directorate, he was responsible for the budget, scheduling, and performance of NASA’s planetary missions. The Planetary Science Division, directed by James L. Green, is responsible for NASA Solar System exploration efforts including the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter,Mars Exploration Rover, and New Horizons missions.

Adams has experience in both industry and government. In 1979, he joined General Electric as an engineer working on a variety of military and civilian space systems. In 1989, he went to work for NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center as a Space Station Freedom Systems Integration Manager. Most recently he served as the Project Manager for the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). During his career, Adams has worked on the design, development, testing and operations of over 24 launched spacecraft, across three scientific disciplines and human spaceflight.

Adams has received a number of awards and honors during his career, including the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, NASA Exceptional Service Medal, and the “Business Solutions in the Public Interest” award from the Council for Excellence in Government.

Joanne Fillion
Director of Creation Images, Events and Lifestyle, Cirque du Soleil

Joanne joined Cirque du Soleil in 2000 as Senior Brand Director, responsible for one of the most widely recognized entertainment brands in the world. Her mandate included managing the positioning of Cirque du Soleil in every region where it is active and developing new business and show brands, along with related communications.

Under her leadership, Cirque du Soleil conducted several exhaustive studies on the values and equity of the Cirque du Soleil brand. Between 2002 and 2010 she has also overseen all marketing activities for the launch of 11 shows. As guardian of Cirque du Soleil’s brand image, Joanne had to have in‑depth knowledge of a brand’s impact and value.

In 2010, she was appointed Director of Creation for the Images, Events and Lifestyle division where she oversees all creative endeavours related to TV programming, film, new media and custom-made special events.

Before joining Cirque du Soleil, Joanne was Brand Director for Molson Export and Molson Dry at Molson Breweries, and Marketing Director and New Product Director at Culinar.

Joanne has a B.A. in Food Sciences and Technologies from Laval University, as well as a graduate studies to her credit.

Her experience in brand management and creative directorship allows Joanne to bring a unique mix of left and right brain knowledge to her leadership style, and to recognize unusual opportunities and advantages in the overlap of these two worlds.

Joseph Cohen
CEO, Lore

Joseph is the CEO of Lore. In May 2011, he dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was studying business, to build the company.

Lore’s goal is to connect the world’s learners and teachers as the platform for education. Since launching in December 2011, it’s actively used at over 600 schools. And to date, it has raised $6M in funding.

The company’s Tribeca lab is home to its 13-person team. Lore takes pride in its artist culture: a belief that a team of extremely talented, focused people can create a revolution.

Joshua Reich
CEO and Co-founder, Simple

Josh is the CEO and co-founder of Simple. His career has spanned marketing analytics and quantitative finance, including running a data mining consulting firm, an equity research group at a growth fund, and core components at the mortgage lead market, Root Exchange. Josh has a BSc. in mathematics and statistics from the University of Melbourne, most of a medical degree, and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.

Lucky Gunasekara

As a child, Lucky believed that geeks would one day save the world. He also believed that the world of Tron was real (he was 5). While the latter turned out sadly not to be true, nudging the former incrementally closer to the truth has become the focus of his life's work. As the co-founder of San Francisco-based Vulcan Labs, Lucky and his merry band of misfit designers, engineers, and scientists work with organizations looking to push the limits of data, design, and technology to new heights for real social impact. Lucky's particular focus is hacking health data, which he also applies in his role as a fellow at, and as an advisory board member and occasional researcher with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pioneer Fund. Lucky has a BA in Neurobiology and Behavior, and was a Fulbright Fellow in Japan studying the social contagion. He ended his overachieving hot streak by dropping out of Stanford Med to co-found FrontlineSMS:Medic and to serve as the first CIO of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative. He lives in Oakland with his wife Cathrine and their puppy with a penchant for eating furniture, Miso.

Mark Bezos
Senior Vice President at Robin Hood

Mark Bezos is the SVP, Communications, Marketing & Events at Robin Hood, the leading poverty-fighting charity in New York City. Bezos joined Robin Hood following the sale of his advertising agency, excited to have found a way to use his powers of persuasion for good.
Bezos also serves as the Captain of a volunteer fire company in Westchester County, New York, where he lives with his wife and four children. He is continuously amazed and motivated by the everyday acts of heroism–big and small–that surround him.

John Sherry
Director of Business Innovation Research at Intel

John Sherry has spent 17 years at the intersection of anthropology and design, first at Microsoft, then at Intel Corporation as a founding member of what became the People and Practices Research Group. From 2005-2009 he was director of User Experience Design at Intel’s Digital Health Group. Based largely on that experience, Dr. Sherry recognized the importance of integrating ethnography and design more directly with tools of business strategy to have meaningful impact. As Director of Business Innovation Research at Intel Labs, he and his team are exploring ways to enable this integration, while preserving the strengths of each of the contributing disciplines.

Neil Blumenthal
Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Warby Parker

Neil Blumenthal loves helping people see. Determined to radically transform the eyewear industry, Neil and three friends launched Warby Parker in February of 2010. Warby Parker designs and sells vintage-inspired frames and prescription lenses for $95 whereas comparable quality glasses cost $500. For every pair sold, a pair is given to someone in need. To date, Warby Parker has distributed over 100,000 pairs to those in need around the world.

Neil had been the Director of VisionSpring, a non-profit social enterprise that trains low-income women to start their own business selling affordable eyeglasses to individuals living on less than $4 per day in South Asia, Africa and Latin America. He was responsible for developing VisionSpring’s award-winning strategy (Fast Company Social Capitalist Award ‘08, ‘07 and ‘05) and expanding VisionSpring’s global presence from one to 10 countries. In 2005, Neil was named a Fellow for Emerging Leaders in Public Service at NYU Robert F. Wagner School for Public Service.

Prior to joining VisionSpring, he worked with the International Crisis Groupand attended the Institute for International Mediation and Conflict Resolution in The Hague, Netherlands. Neil received his BA from Tufts University and his MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where he was both a Social Enterprise Fellow and a Leadership Fellow. Neil and his wife, jewelry designer Rachel Leigh, live in NYC.

Paul Farmer, MD, PhD
Founding Director, Partners In Health

Medical anthropologist and physician Paul Farmer is a founding director of Partners In Health (PIH), an international non-profit organization that provides direct health care services and has undertaken research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty. Dr. Farmer is the Kolokotrones University Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School; Chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women's Hospital; and the United Nations Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti, under Special Envoy Bill Clinton.

Dr. Farmer and his colleagues in the U.S. and in Haiti, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Lesotho, and Malawi have pioneered novel community-based treatment strategies that demonstrate the delivery of high-quality health care in resource-poor settings. Dr. Farmer has written extensively on health, human rights, and the consequences of social inequality. His most recent book is Haiti After the Earthquake. Other titles include Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader, Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor, The Uses of Haiti, Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues, and AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame. Dr. Farmer is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association, the Outstanding International Physician (Nathan Davis) Award from the American Medical Association, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and, with his PIH colleagues, the Hilton Humanitarian Prize. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Scott Heiferman
CEO & Co-Founder, Meetup

Scott Heiferman (@heif) is co-founder & CEO of Meetup. People in over 100 countries have RSVP'd 80 million times (& growing fast) to meetup with people in their towns — about all kinds of things. Scott believes that good things happen when people meetup and form communities, so his mission is a "Meetup Everywhere about Most Everything." Scott was awarded MIT Technology Review's "Innovator of the Year" in 2004 and is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute. Scott grew up in Homewood, Illinois USA, graduated from the University of Iowa, and lives in NYC with Emily Krasnor and their daughter.

Thor Muller
Co-Author, Get Lucky: How to Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business

Thor Muller is a five-time serial entrepreneur , most recently as the cofounder and former chief technology officer of Get Satisfaction, a groundbreaking online customer engagement platform used by over 65,000 companies. He is also the New York Times best selling co-author of Get Lucky: How to Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business. As an early Internet business pioneer, Thor started one of the world’s first Web design agencies in 1995, acquired by Frog Design to form its renowned global Internet practice. He is a frequent blogger, invited speaker at conferences and universities, and an evangelist for bringing the practices of the Maker movement into the core of American k-12 education.

Toby Boudreaux
CTO & Partner, Control Group

Toby Boudreaux serves as CTO & Managing Partner of Product Development at Control Group, a technology innovation company. In this role, he leads all multi-discipline engineering and design engagements. Toby has been instrumental in Control Group’s evolution by bringing a focus on user-experience to everything that we do, from strategy to design and development. As a renowned expert in web and mobile technologies, Toby has deep experience bringing digital technologies to physical objects and spaces. He serves as technical advisor to the Storefront for Art & Architecture.


whurley®. If you've ever met him then you know that he's brilliant. IBM named him a Master Inventor, he's got 11 patents to his name, and he's on the cutting edge of tech. He co-founded Chaotic Moon Studios and co-founded iPhoneDevCamp, iPadDevCamp, and BarCampAustin alike. The work he's doing with Augmented Reality, Open Source, Pervasive Computing, and mobile technology is a constant push to do better than yesterday. And yet he can do nothing without the developer community that he's a part of. Instigate. Collaborate. Innovate.™ "We're all in this together," he says. "Let's keep doing awesome things."